7 Unpopular Opinions about Linux

There are things you should keep to yourself, and things you shouldn't. No idea where this falls.

After running the YouTube channel for 2 and a half years, I’ve had time for form some opinions about Linux, Open Source, and the communities surrounding them. I’ve noticed that some of these opinions, when I express them on other videos or articles, tend to be received… let’s say “negatively”. I think it’s high time I collected all of these controversial opinions in just one place, and let people have at it. Although in here, it won’t be easy, because there are no comments on that blog.

If you prefer to watch this in video form, here it is !

Some parts of the Linux community just discourage people from getting into Linux

Let’s start with the Linux community, or at least some parts of it. I think this is the biggest reason why people can get discouraged about Linux. While I had a great experience when I started back in 2006 with Ubuntu, there was already some elitism from long time users, and this hasn’t improved. I’d even say it has gotten worse, with users that have been on Linux for 3 months becoming the most vocal and aggressive pro-linux advocates, and going around touting arch or their distro or choice - let’s be honest, it’s mostly arch - as the superior distro, harassing newcomers, and trolling Windows or Mac OS forums. This is just not a good look for our community, and while it’s a vocal minority, it’s still what people will remember.

We have to let newcomers and beginners learn, and if they haven’t bothered to check documentation or look if their question has already been answered somewhere, then we can point them in the right direction without being disrespectful. Telling users that their problem is linked to the distro they chose, to go back to windows, or to RTFM is just not helpful, and will turn them away.

You only have one chance to make a good first impression.

Telemetry isn’t that bad

I already explained my opinion on this in various parts of videos I made, but the uproar against telemetry data is just unjustified in my opinion. Collecting data about your hardware, without anything to identify the user himself is not a big deal.

It’s actually helpful for distros, since they can focus on making stuff work for the majority of users, instead of trying to work in the dark and wasting their efforts and valuable development time on some unused piece of hardware. Sure, you could say that using this data, it becomes easier to track a specific user, but honestly, if you trust the open source community to handle your files, your system’s security, and generally tour computing needs, I think you can trust a distro to not track you.

I’ll also add that I’m pretty much convinced that most users complaining about telemetry also use Google services, Facebook, or Whatsapp, which is pretty ironic.

Some implementations are better than others, sure. I much prefer opt-in telemetry, like what KDE does, to opt-out, like what Ubuntu offers, but in the end, in both cases, you can disable it, and the data it collects is insignificant to the user, but vital to the project.

Windows and Mac OS X are fine, and dual booting is OK

I said it. I much prefer using Linux, and that’s what I use at work and at home. But Windows or Mac OS X aren’t “garbage”, they aren’t “trash” or “inferior”. For my needs, Linux is the better system, but for other people, Windows or Mac OS X can be better suited.

Trashing these other systems isn’t helpful to anyone, and doesn’t bring Linux forward, it actually decreases our chances to make people notice and use Linux. When you feel attacked on your system of choice, or on anything you like, your first instinct isn’t to say “hey this guy is right, my choices are terrible”. It’s to lash out in defense of your stuff, and to automatically dislike what has been suggested you use instead. Let’s stop attacking people who use Windows or Mac OS X, and try to promote Linux for its advantages instead of insisting on the other systems’ problems.

Making fun of people for using anything different from what you use is not helping, it doesn’t convince anyone to switch. It’s like arguing about religion or politics: you’ll never convince the other one you’re right and he’s wrong, and if you try to by attacking their choices, you’ll pretty much only entrench them further in their position.

Snaps are OK

Snaps are just a software distribution method. They’re not “cancer”, they’re not trying to turn Linux into a proprietary OS, they’re not Canonical trying to become Microsoft.

They’re a packaging format. It’s perfectly within one’s rights to dislike snaps and not use them, or to point out their drawbacks, because they have some. But once again, attacking anyone who uses them, promotes them, or works on them just gives a bad look to the Linux community. Imagine what a newcomer must feel when they look at the forums, mailing lists, or any conversation which always devolves to “snaps are trash”. Would you feel that this is a unified, helpful community, if said community can’t even support various initiatives, or at least tolerate them ?

It’s also very disrespectful to everyone that works on the project itself. Whether you like them or not, Snaps are the result of a community working to create a solution to a problem, and going around saying that their work is worthless or even harms Linux is just not a good look.

Some proprietary software isn’t a problem while we wait for open source to fill the gaps

I prefer open source. The list of advantages to using open source software is extremely long. And yet, I use some proprietary software. Steam, Spotify, Davinci Resolve, the Nvidia drivers, some apps on my phone. Proprietary software is a reality, and fills in some gaps that open source hasn’t bridged yet. In an ideal world, everything would be open source, but in the meantime, there is nothing wrong with using a few blobs and pieces of proprietary stuff if they fill a need that you can’t fill using open source software.

The multitude of distros and desktops environments and apps is actually a good thing

Don’t know if that one is that controversial, but it’s always been my opinion that choice is good. Having many, many distros to choose from, and a lot of apps that fill the same role, but laid out differently, is a good thing. Having a choice between multiple desktop environments is a good thing. It allows us to really tailor our experience to what we like, simplicity, customization, speed, bleeding edge, whatever.

Some may say that this multitude of choice harms the beginners by giving too many options, but the problem isn’t that we have too much choice, it’s that we lack a good starting point to help users pick their distribution depending on what they like or what they need. The choice is not the problem, it’s the onboarding experience that we struggle with. Imagine a “distro picker” website, that serves as the entry point for users. They fill in some criteria, and the website offers them a grid of available distros, which they then can browse, look at screenshots, and read a quick description of the advantages. That’s probably something we should build at some point.

I don’t understand using Arch in production

This one isn’t going to go well, I think but I’ll say it anyway. I don’t get using Arch in production. Arch Linux is a fantastic system to learn how Linux operates, and how a distro layers various components on top of each other to make a fully functional system. Its packaging tools are great, it’s always up to date, and it’s speedy. But it’s also super unstable for a production system, and I don’t get why people insist on saying it’s the better option for anyone.

Arch is a fantastic hobbyist system, it’s just not a work system in my opinion. For a server, constant updates is a no-go, and for a desktop or laptop, using a system that has very little testing done on it before their updates ship just seems… weird to me. Maybe I’m missing something.

Those are my opinions. You might agree with some or all of them, or think they’re stupid, and wrong. It’s ok, I just wanted to get them out, and see if my feelings about what other people in the community think were right, or wrong.

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